15 June 2020
Here is what employers should consider, as employees return to work.
Before reopening offices
First and foremost, update your risk assessment documentation.
Have you identified all new risks posed to employees? This applies to the risks from adopting new working practices – is there new equipment/methods/lone working that has increased risk?
Once you’ve updated your risk assessment you must adopt policies and procedures to reduce these risks to an acceptable level.
Measures for your employees
Survey your employees to anticipate the reopening and collect as much information as possible to be able to meet their needs.
Appoint a COVID-19 control plan co-ordinator (it can be the office manager, the HR manager etc).
Prepare a remote work policy for those who can manage their duties remotely or are in a vulnerable condition. Do they require additional protection measures to be put in place?
Initiate a gradual return to work and think of staggering arrival and leaving times.
Arrange for some alternative transportation plans (bikes, scooters etc) if your employees are reluctant to use public transportation.
Measures for your workplace
Prepare a thorough and periodical cleaning plan of the workspace and of the work equipment, doorknobs, buttons, materials, coffee machines, photocopiers and generally any surfaces that could be infected with the virus and that are handled by employees.
Reorganise open spaces (eg two-metre distance minimum between desks, posters with safety instructions, lockers).
Set up rules and cleaning equipment in break rooms (eg individual bottles or glasses of water, separated lunchtime breaks).
Consider paper placemats for employees’ desks; at the end of the day, the paper must be thrown away in a bid to mitigate some contact-based spread of the virus on office surfaces.
Check on the air quality/filtering systems as well as on the frequency of maintenance and replacement of filters.
Mark the floor with visual signals.
Set up circulation rules to avoid people crossing paths.
Provide protective filtering masks and ensure their correct use and cleaning.
Provide protective films for laptop and phone keyboards.
Remove water fountains as they can spread the virus.
Make the following products available in all rooms: hand sanitisers, soaps, garbage bags and cleaning wipes.
Provide your employees with questionnaires that can help detect symptoms of the illness.
Prepare a written protocol in case of contamination (eg isolation in a dedicated room with a mask, intervention of the first-aid worker or the COVID-19 co-ordinator, calling a doctor if symptoms are severe.)
Send a communication to the whole team explaining the main actions that will be implemented to ensure a safe end of lockdown.
After reopening your offices
Inform employees of the best hygiene practices (such as washing hands for 20 seconds, avoiding handshakes etc).
Limit the number of meetings and employee gatherings.
If an employee needs the help of a colleague at their desk, the latter must respect a minimum one-metre distance and cannot approach the screen, or stand above the employee.
Make sure barrier measures and social distancing are applied during breaks and other social moments. Plus, clean the break room (surfaces and equipment that enter in contact with people’s hands) after each break and make sure dishes are washed with hot water and soap immediately after use.
If possible, leave the doors and windows open so air can circulate between rooms. It’s also recommended to ventilate closed rooms for 15 minutes every three hours.
Encourage employees to track symptoms and in case of contamination among them, take the appropriate actions (eg send the employee home, call 999 if symptoms are severe, inform people who have been in close contact with the employee, clean immediately the work areas of the employee concerned).
Equipment check list
· Protective masks
· Hand sanitisers, soaps, alcohol wipes
· Cleaning and disinfectant products
· Protective film for keyboards
· Leak resistant rubbish bags and disposable gloves for anyone handling rubbish
· Visual signals on the floor
Once you’re equipped, set up a cleaning routine. While at work, everyone has to keep the office clean by wiping down desks, phones, keyboards, monitors and computer mouse. It’s recommended to do this twice daily, on arrival and prior to departure.
Communication plan for employees
Provide advice for employees who are working at home about how to make their working environment healthy and safe.
Keep employees who are working at home updated on the potential lockdown exit.
Consult with Union reps about your Covid-19 control plan for the workplace.
Ensure information and updates related to Covid-19 in the workplace are available to all employees.
Outline how you’re going to communicate to employees if there’s a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19 within your organisation.